Although the record
is not clear, Cornaro seems to have begun his eventful career by taking
a degree in law at the University of Padua. In any case, his cultural
interests are evidenced by the unusual fact that he owned a personal
library at the time of his death.
In the Venice-Scaligera
War, 1336-9, he was joint commander of an allied force that drove to
the suburbs of enemy-held Padua, 16-28 October 1336. He served as Podestà
of Padua, 1337-8; Count of Zara [in Dalmatia], 1344-45; Duke of Candia
[Crete], 1347-8. During the Third Venice-Genoa War he was assigned important
military and diplomatic duties, including appointment as one of four
Provveditore all'armata di mare [civil commanders of the fleet],
In one important
diplomatic triumph, Cornaro was appointed joint Venetian ambassador
to Louis, King of Hungary, to resolve Hungary's demand that Venice return
Zara and Dalmatia. Louis threatened to ally with Genoa in its war with
Venice in retaliation for Venice's alleged violation of the Treaty of
1348. The ambassadors succeeded in arranging for the dispute to be settled
by Charles IV of Luxemburg, who soon became Emperor of the Holy Roman
Empire. Cornaro and his co-ambassador participated in the reconvened
Parliament of Vienna, 1354, and were created Knights of the Holy Roman
Empire by Charles IV, 1354. In November of the same year Cornaro was
part of a legation sent to Mantua to outline to Emperor Charles IV a
Genoan peace proposal.
In 1355 the senior
nobles of Venice discovered a plot by Doge Faliero to seize complete
control of the government. The nobles met secretly at Cornaro's house
in the Parish of S. Felice to plan their counter-measures. After Faliero
had been arrested and executed, Cornaro was selected to rule as Vice
Doge in the brief interval before a successor Doge could be elected.
In another incident
of high danger, Cornaro was again dispatched on a mission to the court
of Charles IV, 1359. While returning to Venice, January 1360, the diplomatic
party was captured and imprisoned by Rudolph, Duke of Austria, who sought
reimbursement for a castle destroyed by Venice in its war with Hungary.
Cornaro was not freed and returned to Venice until September 1361, 19
In January 1383,
following service as ambassador to Pope Urban V at Avignon, Cornaro
was named Procurator de Supra. At last, 21 July 1365, Cornaro
was elected Doge of Venice, overcoming four objections raised by his
political opponents: that he was too old, that he lacked sufficient
wealth, that he had ties of friendship with foreign princes, and that
his wife was not from a noble family. (His first wife was the daughter
of Enrico Scrovegni of Padua; his second wife was from a prominent Dalmatian
In his brief tenure
as Doge he reestablished commercial relations with Egypt, interrupted
since 1356, by successfully prevailing upon Pope Urban V to revoke his
prohibition on dealing with infidels. He initiated construction of the
wing of the Palazzo Ducale [Doge's Palace] toward the basin of
S. Marco and commissioned decoration of the Chamber of the Consiglio
Maggiore [Grand Council].
Doge Cav. Proc.
Marco Cornaro is one of four Doges buried in the main choir chapel of
the Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo [Zanipolo]. His funeral monument
is a statuary group by Nino
Pisano that Cornaro himself commissioned prior to his death.